We’re paying the violent price for refusing to jail and treat people
Hey, did you hear about that other bloodbath in Illinois over the holiday weekend? The one in Chicago?
The Highland Park massacre — six dead, dozens wounded — was sudden, dramatic, horrifying and wholly out of place in a wealthy big-city suburb. Hot news, in other words.
The Chicago bloodbath, just a few miles away, was a 10-dead, 60-wounded slaughter dragged out over four dreary days and certain to be reprised, in form if not in detail, next weekend. No longer news, sad to say.
To be sure, the Highland Park shootings, coming hard on the heels of Buffalo, Uvalde and so many others, can’t be regarded as unique. Yet neither is it commonplace. At least not yet.
But Chicago’s everyday agony is also urban America’s. There were at least 50 shot in New York City over the holiday weekend — up 62% from 2021 — and similar tallies, adjusted for population, were put up in urban centers across the country.
Still, these dissimilar plagues have two things in common — one obvious, and one maybe not so much.
First there are the guns, to which much lip service is paid. The Highland Park massacre will touch off another round of tedious gun-ban demands, and equally off-point “guns don’t kill, people kill” responses. Yet the fact is that the country is awash in guns, but the global arms market is robust — and a nation that can’t keep out cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and illegal immigrants probably won’t succeed in keeping out guns, either, once the demand develops.
So more is needed.
Which brings up the other problem: America’s growing refusal to protect its citizens from violence. In its cities, that’s what the bail-reform/defund-the-police movement is all about — shielding criminals from the consequences of their actions.
But there also is the matter of violently expressed mental illness and its corollary, the clearly disturbed and deteriorating individual who may not yet have hurt someone, but who unmistakably is headed in that direction.
Full details are lacking on the Highland shooter, but he seems to be mad, and there’s no doubt that both the Uvalde and Buffalo killers were too. Dramatically so.
And then there are the muttering subway pushers, random slashers and incoherent sidewalk campers who pose such a threat to big-city dwellers everywhere.
But what, preemptively, can be done about them — the shooters and the street people alike?
Right now, not much. Court rulings from the ’60s and ’70s make it very difficult to intervene, even where the need is obvious, until the rifle fire begins or there’s another dead body on the tracks.
Not to be flip, but think of it as bail-reform/defund-the-police for the deteriorating mentally ill — an imperfect analogy, sure, but not by much.
Let’s be clear: This is not a prescription. The slippery-slope issues are obvious. And some problems are so complex that there may be no practical solutions, ever.
But when a common thread runs through two matters so intensely urgent, shouldn’t it at least be addressed?
Certainly all Americans have rights — but they should include the right to be protected from the armed and dangerous: Urban gangbangers and psychotic loners with rifles both.
Again, there are no simple answers. But developing more respect for the power of preventive action would be a long step in the right direction.
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